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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 93, Part II, 12 August1997
This is Part II of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Newsline. Part II is a compilation of news concerning Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. Part I, covering Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia, is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of RFE/RL NewsLine are available through RFE/RL's WWW pages: http://www.rferl.org/newsline/search/ Back issues of the OMRI Daily Digest are available through OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II *NEW GOVERNMENT APPOINTMENTS IN UKRAINE *LAST ITALIAN TROOPS LEAVE ALBANIA *ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT PLANS TO LIQUIDATE FURTHER LOSS- MAKING ENTERPRISES End Note IS ALBANIA'S NEW GOVERNMENT CARRYING OUT PURGES OR REFORMS? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE NEW GOVERNMENT APPOINTMENTS IN UKRAINE. President Leonid Kuchma on 11 August appointed Valery Smoliy as deputy prime minister. Smoliy, a historian and member of the Academy of Sciences, replaces Ivan Kuras, who is retiring. Kuchma also appointed Valeriy Cherep, the chairman of the parliament's regional development committee, as minister for transportation; Volodymyr Radchenko as first deputy minister of the coal industry, Volodymyr Husakov to be Construction, Architecture and Housing Committee chairman. The information, justice, and family and youth portfolios remain to be filled, UNIAN reported. UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SIGNS DECREE WRITING OFF DEBTS. Also on 11 August, Kuchma signed a decree writing off debts incurred by state car manufacturer AvtoZaz, Ukrainian Television reports. The move was demanded by the South Korean car manufacturer Daewoo as a condition for the creation of a joint venture. "VECHIRNYA ODESA" EDITOR KILLED. Borys Derevianenko, editor in chief of the newspaper "Vechirnya Odesa" was shot dead on 11 August by an unknown assailant. Odessa Oblast Police Administrator Col. Hryhoriy Yepur said Derevianenko was shot in the chest and abdomen with an automatic gun. An investigation team has been set up on the orders of President Kuchma by the Interior Ministry, the Prosecutor-General's Office, and the security service. The Odessa Oblast administrator called the murder a political act that was most likely connected with his work and therefore an attack on democracy, Unian reported. Colleagues of Derevyanko say they believe his killing is related to the newspaper's opposition to the municipal authorities. BELARUSIAN PRIME MINISTER SAYS REAL INCOMES RISING. Sergei Ling said on 11 August that real incomes in the country are growing. But Interfax quotes the country's trade union leader, Vladimir Goncharik, as saying the opposite is the case. At a meeting in Minsk between Ling and the leadership of the Trade Unions Federation, Goncharik said overdue wages since the beginning of the year have reached 791 billion Belarusian rubles ($29.3 million). He says the unions are demanding that the official minimum wage be increased from 170,000 rubles ($6.30) a month to at least 600,000 ($22.22) and that the minimum monthly wage be raised from its current level of 50,000 rubles ($5.55). But Ling said this would be impossible at present. He called for a "calm and balanced" solution since the government "doesn't have such a sackful of money." RUSSIAN PRESS RESPONSE TO FREEZING OF BALTIC BANK ACCOUNTS. According to BNS, Russian newspapers and financial institutions maintain that Baltic banks with accounts in Russia have broken that country's law. The accusations follow the freezing of bank accounts of a number of Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian banks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 August 1997). The Moscow-based newspaper "Segodnya" argues that legislation allows companies in Russia to evade taxes through the use of accounts with foreign banks. "To say now that the Russian tax authorities didn't see all the violations earlier would be...dishonest," the newspaper commented. Moscow has not made an official comment on the decision to block the accounts. Meanwhile, Estonia's Tallinna Pank, Forekspank, and Krediidipank are reported to have filed suit against the Russian tax police to demand compensation for losses incurred by the blockage. NOTE: The Estonian Foreign Ministry has pointed out that the item titled "Baltics React Angrily to Freezing of Bank Accounts in Russia" in "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 August 1997 is misleading since there has been no official reaction from Tallinn. We apologize for any confusion. WIESENTHAL CENTER CALLS FOR BOYCOTT OF VILNIUS MEETING. The Simon Wiesenthal Center has called on Jews to boycott a commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the death of Gaon Elijah of Vilnius, BNS reported on 11 August. Efraim Zuroff, the director of the center's headquarters in Jerusalem, said participation by Israelis and U.S. Jewish groups in the Vilnius commemoration would "undermine" the current campaign to put pressure on Lithuania to bring Nazi war criminals to trial. In a letter to the Lithuanian ambassador to Israel, Zuroff also proposed transferring the remains of the Jewish sage to Israel. The Lithuanian government is sponsoring the meeting in September in Vilnius to commemorate the gaon's death in 1797. POLES DISSATISFIED WITH GOVERNMENT MEASURES IN DEALING WITH FLOODS. According to a poll published by the Warsaw-based Center for Public Opinion Research on 11 August, 43 percent of Poles directly affected by the floods say they are dissatisfied with the way the government has so far dealt with the recent floods. Only 28 percent said the government performed well. A majority of respondents, however, expressed satisfaction with the work of the fire departments, the police, and soldiers. FLOODS CAUSE $1.76 BILLION IN DAMAGE IN CZECH REPUBLIC. Jiri Skalicky, the environment minister and commissioner for dealing with the recent floods, says flooding in Moravia and eastern Bohemia caused damage totaling some 60 billion Czech crowns ($1.76 billion). He added that 2,500 homes were destroyed and 15,000 damaged, Czech media reported on 12 August. Skalicky says the figure may still rise. The Environmental Inspectorate has registered 19 cases of leaks of dangerous substances, including oil, from inundated storage facilities. CZECH ENVIRONMENT MINISTRY ISSUES GOLD PROSPECTING LICENSE. The Environment Ministry on 11. August issued a one-year license to Britain's Greenwich Resources to carry out a geological survey of gold and mineral deposits in the Rozmital area, southwest of Prague, Czech media reported. The license stipulates 25 conditions, most of which are related to environmental protection and state interests. The Constitutional Court has rejected a complaint by the town of Rozmital pod Tremsinem that says the issue of the town's participation in the licensing proceedings has not been resolved. A ministry spokeswoman says legislation regulating geological surveys does not give local communities the right to participate in those proceedings. SLOVAK MILITARY SEES ADVANTAGES OF NATO MEMBERSHIP. Col. Vladimir Kmec, the head of the Defense Ministry's Center for Strategic Studies, told RFE/RL's Slovak Service on 11 August that an analysis by his office shows that if Slovakia were to join NATO, its armed forces would be more effective and less costly to maintain. He says an individual defense system would be worse for the armed forces, which he predicts will be in for a "shock" when the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary become NATO members. SLOVAKIA PREDICTS BIG, BUT LOW-QUALITY HARVEST. Agricultural Minister Peter Baco, speaking on Slovak Radio on 11 August, said Slovakia has so far harvested 200,000 tons more grain than a year ago and intends to export 250,000 tons of grain. But he says the rye, wheat, and barley is of poorer quality than last year and will be difficult to market abroad, even at lower prices. HUNGARIAN, ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET. Romanian Defense Minister Victor Babiuc, whose planned two-day visit to Budapest was postponed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April 1997 and related item below) made a brief stop at Budapest airport on 11 April and met with his Hungarian counterpart, Gyoergy Keleti. Hungarian media reported that the two "compared notes on mutual cooperation." They also agreed that the postponed visit will now take place in the fall. HUNGARIAN TELEVISION TO LAY OFF 750 MORE EMPLOYEES THIS YEAR. Some 750 employees of Hungarian Television (MTV) are to be laid off this year, bringing the total number of employees to below 3,000, an MTV official told Hungarian media on 11 August. Since the state-owned television channel was transformed into a share-holding company last year, 454 people have been laid off, including 219 this year, the official added. MTV has paid out 290 million forints ($1.5 million) in severance and an additional 130 million in social insurance contributions. SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE ALBANIAN POLICE ROUND UP GANG IN VLORA. The Interior Ministry on 11 August announced that special police units arrested at least three members of the Zani Gang in Vlora. All three men have criminal records. One gang member was wounded, and gunfire could be heard near the home of gang leader Zani Caushi. Some news agency reports said that other gang members later attacked the police. The gang has had a high profile in Vlora during the recent months of anarchy. The 11 August raid was the first such police dragnet in that troubled port town since the new government began its crackdown on lawbreakers in July. Meanwhile in Shkodra in the north, the authorities called on citizens to hand in their illegally- owned weapons voluntarily before the police begin confiscating them. LAST ITALIAN TROOPS LEAVE ALBANIA. Some 60 Italian soldiers flew out of Albania on 11 August, one day before the official end of the mandate of Operation Alba. Italy launched that project, together with other European countries, in April in order to provide some security for the 29 June elections. Nine Italian military advisers and several dozen Greek troops remain in Albania to help reorganize and train the police and the army. Those remaining foreign troops are not part of a multinational operation but are serving under bilateral agreements between Albania and the respective countries. Both Italy and Greece fear another influx of refugees and criminals unless order returns to Albania. Bedri Soku, the deputy director of the Albanian prison authorities, told AFP on 11 August that Italian aid to reequip six vandalized prisons has begun to arrive. MONTENEGRIN RULING PARTY HAS TWO PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES. The Electoral Commission in Podgorica on 11 August confirmed the presidential candidacy of incumbent President Momir Bulatovic on the ticket of Democratic Socialist Party (DPS) in the 5 October elections. The commission has, however, already accepted the presidential candidacy of Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic for the DPS. The two men lead rival factions of the party, which has yet to formally split. Each man and his respective backers claim to be the sole legitimate DPS candidate. Blagota Mitric, the president of the Constitutional Court, told an RFE/RL correspondent in Podgorica that he finds the commission's ruling "amazing," since Montenegrin law clearly limits each party to one candidate. Mitric said the court could rule on the matter within 48 hours of receiving a request to do so. News agencies reported that commission members felt that the DPS has become two parties and that both candidates should be on the ballot. BOSNIAN CENTRAL BANK STARTS OPERATIONS. Serge Robert, the French banker who heads the Bosnian Central Bank, said in Sarajevo on 11 August that the bank has begun operations. Transactions will be electronic only until the three sides can agree on a design for a common currency. The new bills are expected to go into circulation three months after the design is approved. The new monetary unit will be called the "convertible mark" and pegged on a one-to-one basis to the German mark, which has long served as the unofficial second currency throughout the former Yugoslavia. Current Bosnian dinars can be exchanged at the rate of 100 dinars for one convertible mark. International aid donors have warned the three sides that they stand to lose reconstruction assistance unless they cooperate with Central Bank. Joint Bosnian institutions now function poorly, if at all. PLAVSIC TO HEAD OWN PARTY IN BOSNIAN SERB ELECTIONS. Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic said in Banja Luka on 11 August that she will head a new political party in the elections she has called for 12 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 1997). Criticizing the faction in the Bosnian Serb leadership loyal to Radovan Karadzic, she added that one cannot promote Serbian interests by undemocratic means, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Banja Luka. Plavsic regards the Karadzic group as a mafia. She added that "it is irrational to confront the international community when the consequences of such behavior can be fatal for the Republika Srpska." NON-NATIONALIST APPEALS FOR SUPPORT IN BOSNIAN VOTE. Opposition politician Stjepan Kljuic said on 11 August in Sarajevo that his non-nationalist Joint List for Bosnia-Herzegovina 97 remains open to all parties who want a democratic and united Bosnia. He accused the three governing nationalist parties of manipulating voter registration for the September local elections, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Bosnian capital. In Zepce, officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe reported threats and attempts at intimidation made by unnamed persons against the OSCE's local staff. The OSCE has had problems in the past with attempts by local Muslim politicians to manipulate voter registration. ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT PLANS TO LIQUIDATE FURTHER LOSS- MAKING ENTERPRISES. Sorin Dimitriu, the chairman of the State Property Fund, said on 11 August that the list of loss-making enterprises slated for liquidation contains the names of 222 companies, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. He added that at least five of those companies are large and that Romvag, one of the 17 companies included on the list announced recently, may be saved from liquidation and privatized if it manages to pay off its debts to the state budget by 25 August. Also on 11 August, representatives of the management and the trade unions from two Ploiesti refineries slated for liquidation held talks in Bucharest with government officials. Minister of Reforms Ulm Spineanu said after the talks that small components of the two refineries may survive if private investors express interest in buying them. ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY DENIES TENSIONS WITH HUNGARY. A spokesman for the Romanian Ministry of Defense has said that Minister of Defense Victor Babiuc's visit to Budapest (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 August 1997) was postponed due to "technical reasons," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. He stressed that the postponement had nothing to do with interethnic tensions in Transylvania over bilingual street signs, adding that a letter will soon be sent to "Evenimentul zilei" in response to the daily's recent claim that tensions in Transylvania are endangering Romanian-Hungarian relations. But Gyorgy Tokay, the minister in charge of ethnic minorities affairs in the Romanian government, on 11 August deplored the tensions over the posting of the bilingual signs. He said those tensions were "artificial" and could have "damaging effects." He also noted that it was "strange" that supporters of European integration fail to see that the bilingual signs meet international standards for dealing with minority affairs. ROMANIAN OPPOSITION SPLINTER-PARTY OFFICIALLY REGISTERS AT TRIBUNAL. The Alliance for Romania (APR), which split from the Party of Social Democracy in Romania in June, officially registered as an independent political formation on 11 August. The Bucharest Municipal Tribunal is to rule on the party's legal status on 4 September. APR leader Teodor Melescanu said the party is now represented in the parliament by 13 deputies and two senators and that seven more deputies and three more senators will join the formation in the fall. He added that the party will elect its leadership at an October congress. Until then, Melescanu remains acting chairman, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. STALLED CHISINAU-TIRASPOL TALKS. Anatol Taranu, the chief negotiator for Moldova in parleys with the breakaway Transdniester region, told BASA-press on 11 August that Tiraspol's stance does not tally with the viewpoint of the three mediators -- Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE. He said Tiraspol does not accept the principle of Moldovan territorial integrity. Transdniestrian intransigence, Taranu added, can be explained only by the fact that Tiraspol is supported from the "outside." Vladimir Atamanyuk, the deputy chairman of the Transdniester Supreme Soviet, told BASA-press that Tiraspol accepts the principle of the "common state" but wants that state to be a confederation of equal partners. Atamanyuk added that if Moldova is not ready to accept this position "there are other countries we could build a common state with -- look at the example of the Russia- Belarus union." LYNCHING IN TRANSDNIESTER. Citing ITAR-TASS, Reuters reported on 11 August that an unemployed man was found hanged on a tree, with a cucumber stuck in his mouth, near the town of Dubasari. He was apparently killed by vegetable producers angry at the widespread theft of their produce. Earlier this summer, an angry mob caught several thieves near Chisinau, beat them up, removed their clothes, smeared them with mud, and led them through the neighborhood to humiliate them. BULGARIA HAS LOWEST BIRTHRATE IN EUROPE. The National Institute for Statistics on 11 August said Bulgarians, weighed down by the ongoing economic crisis, have the lowest birthrate in Europe, AFP reported. With 7.79 newborns per 1,000 inhabitants, Bulgaria's birthrate in has dropped behind that of Latvia (8.5 per 1,000 in 1996). END NOTE IS ALBANIA'S NEW GOVERNMENT CARRYING OUT PURGES OR REFORMS? by Fabian Schmidt Albania's new government, composed of Socialists and their coalition allies, has a highly ambitious program. Foreign Minister Paskal Milo of the Social Democratic Party has announced that his long-term goals are joining the EU and NATO. Earlier, Prime Minister Fatos Nano stressed that good relations with the U.S. and the EU are of primary importance to Albania. But Albania has a long way to go to reach those ambitious goals. After months of unrest and anarchy, the challenges facing the politicians are huge. Most important, they have to crack down on the gangs that are still controlling large areas, especially in the south, and continuing to wage gang wars that cost dozens of lives each week. Interior Minister Neritan Ceka from the Democratic Alliance Party has pledged to secure all roads in the country within the next two months. But in order to do so, he will have to reform the police to make it a more professional body. Delegates to a recent international conference in Rome have promised broad assistance, including equipping and training police officers. Rome will also keep 500 soldiers in the country after the multinational forces withdraw at the end of August. Those troops will help rebuild the army, which fell apart shortly after the unrest started in February. The government will also need to reform the judiciary, which is regarded as a political tool of past governments and presidents. But the necessary reforms can do more harm than good if they are not carried out carefully. The police, the courts, and the state media were highly politicized institutions under the previous Democratic government. The new ministers have indicated that they plan to sack a large number of high-ranking officials, and they have already started appointing successors. But they seem bent on continuing to appoint officials for their loyalty to the political party in power rather than for their independence and professional qualities. The appointees may thus prove loyal servants of a party rather than of a democratic state, thereby impeding the reform progress. There are already clear indications that the new government wants to make radical personnel changes in the administration, contributing to the public perception that government employees will again be primarily political appointees. Both Justice Minister Thimio Kondi and Defense Minister Sabit Brokaj have told directors of departments within their ministries and top officers that they should resign voluntarily or expect to be sacked. Brokaj even indicated that some top-ranking officers may be put on trial for what he called "violating the constitution" by sending troops against protesters earlier this year or by abandoning arms depots to looters. Although there have been only a few dismissals to date, the Democratic Party has opened an office giving legal advise to those affected by what the Democrats call "political purges." But not everyone who was in opposition under the Democrats is happy with the new government's appointments. Frrok Cupi, a well- known and respected journalist of the independent daily "Koha Jone," has refused to accept the post of head of the state news agency, ATA. His predecessor, Ilir Zhilla, was an appointee of the Democratic Party, which, after winning the 1992 elections, exercised strict control over agency policy. Cupi's refusal to accept the post highlights the dilemma of the new government. It desperately needs qualified personnel to help overcome the politicization of the administration. But many of the people with the professional qualities and integrity to change the country's political culture do not want to become the next generation of officials who are under pressure to carry out their jobs and, at the same time, remain loyal to the governing political party. The author is a Balkan analyst specializing in Albanian, Kosovar, and Macedonian affairs. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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